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Headlight, LLC releases its “Best Performing Metros” list for the Summer of 2011


Headlight, LLC conducted an analysis of employment trends from June to September 2011 to identify the U.S. metros that experienced the highest job growth rates.

The U.S. economy has experienced positive growth every month for the last 12 months, a very encouraging sign.  However, month-to-month growth rates have been consistently low:  the U.S. employment base grew just 1.1% over the past 12 months.  While growth has appeared slow but steady for the nation, the recovery has been far from uniform across metros in the U.S.  A surprising finding in our analysis is that 43% of all metros experienced job losses during the Summer of 2011.  These job losses were most pronounced in small metros (under 500,000 population), but were consistent across all size categories.  Thirty-five percent of large metros (1.5M population or higher) lost jobs and 41% of medium-sized metros lost jobs.  [Note:  data used in the analysis were seasonally adjusted.]

Headlight’s “Best Performing Metros, Summer 2011” (in order, representing the top 10% of their size category) are:

Large metros (out of 46 large metros):

  1. Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA
  2. Kansas City, MO-KS
  3. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL
  4. Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale, AZ

Medium metros (out of 71):

  1. Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL
  2. Tucson, AZ
  3. Stockton, CA
  4. Gary, IN
  5. Boise City-Nampa, ID
  6. Modesto, CA
  7. Honolulu, HI

Small metros (out of 269):

  1. Cumberland, MD-WV
  2. Lewiston-Auburn, ME
  3. Holland-Grand Haven, MI
  4. Hot Springs, AR
  5. Wenatchee-East Wenatchee, WA
  6. Columbia, MO
  7. Yuba City, CA
  8. Blacksburg-Christiansburg-Radford, VA
  9. State College, PA
  10. Odessa, TX
  11. Lawrence, KS
  12. Longview, WA
  13. Hanford-Corcoran, CA
  14. Lafayette, IN
  15. Casper, WY
  16. Lafayette, LA
  17. Hattiesburg, MS
  18. Redding, CA
  19. Logan, UT-ID
  20. Pocatello, ID
  21. Houma-Bayou Cane-Thibodaux, LA
  22. Mount Vernon-Anacortes, WA
  23. Fairbanks, AK
  24. Canton-Massillon, OH
  25. Napa, CA
  26. Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA
  27. Grand Junction, CO
  28. Pittsfield, MA

Despite the positive stories of recovering metros across the U.S., a high percentage of metros experienced job losses in the Summer of 2011.  Out of the 386 metros examined in this report, 43% of metros were in recession this summer.  Large metros fared better, but job losses were spread rather evenly across all size categories.  Small metros experienced the most severe negative growth rates, but the worst performing medium metros fared better than their larger counterparts.

Some interesting variations between size classes are appearing.  We decided to analyze the growth statistics for each size of metro across four percentiles:  the first 25th, then the next 25th, etc.  Our hope was to determine if there is a “right-size” for regions as the U.S. pulls out of recovery.  This thought process is similar to one used by financial planners who recommend “big cap” or “small cap” stocks for investment during different stages of the business cycle.

As shown in the chart below, small metros have sizeable growth rates at both ends of the spectrum.  This is to be expected given the larger number of small metros and the lack of depth and diversification of their local economies.  However, when we contrast medium metros with large metros (more of an “apples-to-apples” comparison), large metros performed better overall, with smaller declines in the bottom quartile and a positive average growth rate in the 3rd quartile, where medium metros lost jobs on average.  However, in the “high performance” quartile (top 25%), medium metros outpaced large metros.

Source:  Headlight, LLC

Click here to download the complete report.

Download the complete rankings by size category:

Complete Rankings for Large Metros (1.5M+)
Complete Rankings for Medium Metros (500k-1.5M)
Complete Rankings for Small Metros (<500k)

Subscribers to our e-newsletter can email us to get the full rankings as a spreadsheet.  Email Noelle@HeadlightLLC.com with this request.